Episode 6: WERKIN with Linda Findley Kozlowski on crafting a thoughtful business
What’s Linda Findley Kozlowski’s dream job? After building her career managing marketplace models at tech giants like Alibaba, the Chief Operating Officer of Etsy describes the satisfaction she gets out of her position supporting micro-entrepreneurs in a creative environment.
‘I wake up every day knowing that if I can help sellers that have this creative bend and get more of their products visible in the world, then that really has a lot of meaning for me.’
At Etsy, Kozlowski has overseen the growth of the popular online marketplace for artists. A focus of her role has been to develop a platform that helps micro-entrepreneurs build creative companies at a minimum cost, reaching customers worldwide. ‘It’s really about about “How can I actually create an environment where it's not just about large companies thriving?” It's actually about all types of companies thriving.’
The way Kozlowski sees it, marketplace models provide opportunities to more individuals to design a work-life balance that best suits them and their business.
‘I do love marketplace models. I think they’re really incredible models, particularly a really interesting platform to allow people to work the way they want to work and live life the way that they want to live life.’
With over 77 percent of Etsy’s sellers working from their homes, it’s important that the specific needs of these micro-entrepreneurs are considered. ‘We built a platform that builds a community for people who are really passionate about their business. That’s something that micro-entrepreneurs are slightly different than say some of the other entrepreneurs [with larger teams] you might see.’ Without the teams a small business might have, these micro-entrepreneurs have come to rely on the community Etsy has established through its network of sellers.
As an executive overseeing a marketplace with a seller-base comprised of 80 percent women, for Kozlowski, Etsy needs to be a place where women can thrive, both within the company and among sellers.
‘We want to make sure that we're having the right decision-making diversity in order to best serve them. But we also believe that in general, fostering a diverse and inclusive workplace makes us more relevant and makes us more competitive and it also makes us more resilient as a company… it's not just about women, we want to welcome people from all backgrounds, ethnicities, cultures, experiences, gender diversity etc. to open up those new perspectives and ideas, and we think that's part of what drives our business forward.’
Diversity is a central part of making a marketplace business model work. ‘If you think about it, entrepreneurship really is something that lets people start and run businesses on their own terms, and that’s something that lends itself to diversity… we want to level the playing field by making entrepreneurship a path for anybody to actually start a business.’
What advice does Kozlowski have for would-be entrepreneurs? ‘I think there's a lot of fear about either starting your own business or making a career change, that frankly is just unfounded. Because not everyone has all the answers. As a matter of fact, most people don't. The only way you get them is to take that chance, and learn and listen.’
Creating a self-reflective environment where sellers can take chances on their businesses has carried over to Etsy’s internal operations, ‘I believe very much that you can be a successful business and also be a very values-aligned and thoughtful business.’
Kozlowski credits a ‘very encouraging network of mentors,’ with her open-minded approach to take chances on new career opportunities. ‘I looked to people to inspire me… I like to be surrounded by people that inspire me.’ Same goes for how we find our WERKIN with guests…